Sunday Mirror 2001 Look What's Happened To Our Stardom

Fame? You must be kidding; LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENED TO OUR STARDOM  Sunday Mirror, May 20, 2001 by JASON KERRIGAN

TWENTY years ago they were the kids from Fame, and their leg- warmers and dance routines captured the imagination of a generation.
Now their style is back again - as the inspiration for the video for Geri Halliwell's chart-topping hit It's Raining Men.
In 1981 dance teacher Debbie Allen told the kids: "You want fame...well fame costs and right here is where you start paying."  Here we find out what really happened to them...
Sprawled in an armchair at a friend's flat in Milan - the latest place he has found to bunk down - Gene Anthony Ray is reflecting on what might have been.
He could have been really big. He could have been a star.
It's the familiar litany of regret, of course, from any showbiz climber who, somewhere up the career ladder, has stumbled.
But in Gene's case, failure is all the more difficult to accept. For he used to be one of the famous Fame kids - the dreadlocked, high- kicking dancer Leroy.
Gene believed that the theme song's inspirational lyrics - "I'm gonna live forever, I'm gonna learn how to fly" - would apply to him too.  But he's still hoping for the big break.
"Hey, I can't wait to tell Geri personally 'I should have been in your video'," he says. "I can still do it. I'm as fit now as I was 20 years ago...just watch me." And with that he leaps from the chair and performs the splits, without so much as a wince.
"Geri wanted the authentic Fame style, and her people asked me to do the video, but we just couldn't agree dates," he says.
If any one of the Fame kids was likely to go on to find real-life stardom, then the smart money would have been on Gene, now 39. Instead, when the TV series finally ran out, so too did Gene's luck.
He had an expensive drug habit. Then he descended into alcoholism. Soon he had spent the million dollars he earned, and his attempts to re-start his career, first with a dance show touring Europe, later with a Fame-type school in Milan, came to nothing.
Right now Gene's between projects, he says. He's sharing his business manager's flat with three others, one a weary-eyed blonde porn actress who drifts in to pour herself a drink as we speak.

At least he has a bed here. In the past he has slept on floors, on park benches, even for one night, six months ago, in a police cell. He had stolen a bottle of wine from a Milan supermarket, and then used it to attack two fellow drunks who had been taunting him.
The case was eventually dropped, but the experience made him take stock.
He hasn't touched alcohol since, he insists. Certainly he looks not so different today from his Leroy days - a lean figure dressed in cobra-skin boots, white linen trousers and a blue shirt.

He is flamboyantly camp. But he dismisses questions about his sexuality and emphatically denies rumours that he is suffering from AIDS.
"Drink was my problem," he says. "All I cared about was where my next drink was coming from.  "Drugs I haven't touched for years, but back in the Fame days there was a lot of stuff being done backstage - I'm not talking about the stars, but the people behind the scenes were always on something.
"I did my fair share of reefers and cocaine, but I never did heroin." He adds: "I used to feel guilty when kids said they wanted to be me."
Gene was just 17, a drop-out from drama school, when he was picked out of 2,800 auditioning hopefuls for the role in Fame.
A decade later he was back at the bottom, singing the theme song in karaoke bars. "I know how quickly and easily your life can change," he says.
Debbie Allen won two Emmy Awards for her TV portrayal of Lydia Grant, the passionately dedicated dance teacher.
Today she's a 51-year-old mother of two and one of Hollywood's most respected film producers. She worked alongside Stephen Spielberg to make Amistad, the 1998 blockbuster about slavery. 
When Fame ended, she says, she worked hard to build a reputation as a choreographer on Broadway.
She briefly returned to acting in the sitcom In The House - but quit after one series. "My best productions are my two children," she says. "Every time I get some recognition, it reminds me that I have to inspire them. I must do well by them."
Erica Gimpel, 36, was the feisty singer Coco Hernandez and still works as a TV actress. She has a regular role in ER, and has appeared in top US shows like Law And Order and Babylon 5. But she never soared to the kind of heights that Fame kids aspired to. "Sometimes you meet someone in the business, and they tell you how Fame inspired them," she says. "Then I think, 'Wow! I helped to make a difference'."
Cellist Julie Miller was played by Lori Singer, 39. She won the part at an audition against a then-unknown singer by the name of Madonna. But once Fame was over, her career went into a decline. Now she spends most of her time working for charity. She divorced her lawyer husband Richard Emery in 1996 - and sued him for millions of dollars claiming he had conspired with accountants to steal her earnings.
Lee Curreri, 40, was the keyboard maestro and shy genius Bruno. He became a real-life Bruno and now earns three times as much as a composer than he did in the show. He shares a Californian mansion with his wife Sherri and their baby son Joseph.

"I don't miss the fame of being in Fame at all," he says. "It was all a bit of a joke to me."
Valerie Lansberg played zany Doris Schwartz. It was only after the show ended that she confessed how Fame had driven her to drink. She eventually sobered up through counselling in the late Eighties.
"I was a big drunk and I did drugs as well. I'm just thankful that the fans never noticed," she says. 
At 42 she's still working, as well as being a mother to Taylor, 14, and nine-year-old Brooklyn. After Fame she went on to roles in Hotel, Dream On and alongside OJ Simpson in the sitcom First In Ten. She is soon to appear in a new film, Rock Star.
Fame's comic Danny Amatullo was played by Carlo Imperato. He credits the show with saving him from a life of crime and giving him the chance to escape from New York's Bronx, where he grew up.  "I was either heading for jail or success," he says.
Now he lives in Hollywood, a 37-year-old father of three who does a variety of jobs from teaching drama and helping small-time film- makers to carpentry.
PR Paul, who played Montgomery, has gone from Fame riches to the rag trade. He now runs the family business - a clothes shop in New York's exclusive Fire Island. "It's very different but I enjoy it," he says.
Still single at 44, he takes the odd acting role and last year appeared in a TV detective series.
Carol Mayor Jenkins played the drama teacher Elizabeth Sherwood. Twenty years on, at 63, she still tries to dance every day. She carried on working in theatre after the TV series ended, and this week she has been starring in a stage production of The Glass Menagerie in Tennessee.  She's single and lives in Los Angeles. "When I get recognised, it's sweet," she says. "And of course I still have the leg-warmers."
Albert Hague was Professor Benjamin Shorofsky, the eccentric genius who taught the kids music. He had never acted, but he was already an award- winning composer and writer of Broadway musicals when Fame approached him. He was told simply to play himself - and grow a beard.  Today he's 80 and lives alone in Southern California following the recent death of his wife of 50 years, actress Renee Orin.
Albert wrote much of the music for the hit Jim Carrey film How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  A German Jew who fled to the USA before the war, he is currently writing his autobiography, From Ellis Island To Fame.  He has a permanent reminder of the show...he kept his beard
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